Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. announced Tuesday that the office had issued warrants for the arrest of six police officers involved in the violent arrests of Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim. The two Atlanta students were tased and pulled from their vehicle on live TV, prompting an investigation into the arrests.
On Sunday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that Investigators Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner had been fired from the Atlanta police force after authorities reviewed bodycam footage of the incident. Three additional officers were placed on desk duty pending the ongoing investigation.
Six officers were charged in connection with the incident: Officers Lonnie Hood, Willie Sauls, Ivory Streeter, Mark Gardner, Armond Jones and Roland Claud. Hood, Sauls, Streeter and Gardner were all charged with aggravated assault for using and pointing their tasers. Jones was charged with aggravated battery for forcefully throwing Young to the ground during his arrest and aiming a gun at Young. Claud was charged with criminal damage to property.
Under Georgia law, a taser is considered a deadly weapon. Bond for each of the officers is set at $10,000, and the officers have until June 5 to turn themselves in, Howard said. Gardner and Streeter were both fired from the Atlanta Police Department on Sunday. Howard said he was unsure how long the officers would serve if convicted, but he guessed that, if sentenced, they would serve between five and eight years.
Howard commended the Atlanta Police Department for its “outstanding cooperation” during the investigation. Howard said that both Pilgrim and Young were “extremely innocent” and “extremely factual,” and that charges against Young had been dismissed. Howard added that Young and Pilgrim are “two of the nicest people that we had ever gotten the chance to meet in the DA’s office.” Young and Pilgrim both attended the press conference.
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorize anyone else from this point on,” Young said. “We just need to make sure that all officers are held accountable and that there really is change moving forward within the culture of policing.”
Howard Confirmed That Neither Pilgrim Nor Young Had Possession of a Gun Upon Their Arrest & No Firearms Were Found in the Vehicle
Reports from several officers after the event claimed that they heard officers say “gun” or saw a gun removed from the vehicle. An early account of the event on Twitter claiming that Young and Pilgrim had a gun was retracted. According to Howard, there was no mention of a firearm while the arrests took place, but after the incident, one of the officers was recorded saying that the pair pulled a gun. Howard confirmed that no firearm was ever located on Pilgrim or Young or in the vehicle.
Howard added that Pilgrim was never charged by police during her arrest. According to Howard, police fractured Young’s wrist during the arrest, and Young was taken to the hospital, where he received 24 stitches for a gash in his arm. According to a statement from Young, an officer punched him in the back upwards of 10 times as he was escorted away from the scene. An early account reported that Young was taken to the hospital for an epileptic event after he was tased. Howard did not mention an epileptic event.
The Violent Arrests of Pilgrim & Young Were Caught on Television and Viewed Millions of Times
On Saturday night, Young, a student at Morehouse College, and Pilgrim, a student at Spelman College, were arrested after a 9 p.m. curfew went into effect throughout Atlanta. During the arrest, both students were tased and reporters claim that police slashed their tires. Pilgrim was pulled from the vehicle screaming before officers forced her onto the ground, where her hands were cuffed behind her back. Young was also pulled from the car and arrested. The arrests took place live on television, prompting an outcry for justice.
According to ABC, the pair went out to get something to eat and were stuck in traffic in downtown Atlanta. They started talking to Chancellor Myers, also a Morehouse student, on the street when police began arresting Myers. Bodycam footage shows that Young began recording the arrest and begging officers to allow the student to get in the car with them before officers approached Young’s car.
“These are good young people who have a bright future,” said Young’s lawyer, Maluwi Davis.
The Arrests of Pilgrim & Young Prompted Widespread Condemnation
Mayor Bottoms called footage of the Saturday night arrests “disturbing,” adding, “We understand that our officers are working very long hours under an enormous amount of stress, but we also understand that the use of excessive force is never acceptable.”
At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, NAACP president the Reverend James Woodall said, “We are deeply disturbed by the inaction that has come in the wake of the deaths of countless African-Americans in the state and are calling for swift and immediate action to resolve every single demand that we have outlined here. Two local college students were violently detained in a way that highlights the urgency for us to save Black lives,” according to WSB-TV.
Friends organized a GoFundMe page immediately after the arrests to pay for bail for Pilgrim and Young.